Mandy Calara, founder and CEO of Forever Brands, launched Chicago-based Forever Yogurt in 2010. That was the year three frozen yogurt concepts landed in the top five spots of Restaurant Business’ annual Future 50 ranking of the fastest growing small chains. Through franchise agreements, Calara grew his fro-yo concept to 30 stores.
Recently, Calara streamlined Forever Yogurt’s franchise processes (manuals, operations and sales) so a smaller team could expand and co-brand the concept. “Instead of downsizing the corporate staff, we would leverage our company’s skill sets and apply them to new brands in the company,” he says.
The first of these brands is Bee & Tea, a concept that offers Chinese bao sandwiches and several types of tea, including bubble tea in assorted flavors. The first Bee & Tea opened in Chicago in July as a stand-alone unit, catering to both the lunch and snack customer. Going forward, Calara plans to expand Bee & Tea jointly with Forever Yogurt, retrofitting select stores for about $100,000 to accommodate the two brands. He notes that the success of Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin-Robbins’ dual locations spurred the idea to locate complementary concepts in the same space.
Calara has also formed a partnership with a Chicago fast casual, Falafill, and plans to integrate that Mediterranean sandwich concept into some Forever Yogurt stores. He is currently building a unit in Madison, Wis., that will house all three concepts.